London countdown and doping cases on IOC agenda

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By STEPHEN WILSON, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The lords of the rings are in town to check on the last-minute preparations for the London Games and examine several doping cases dating back to previous Olympics in 2004 and 2000.

Just days ahead of next Friday's opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee executive board meets Saturday following a week of blaring headlines in Britain about problems with security, transportation, wet weather and possible strikes.

The IOC has expressed full confidence in London organizers, who will seek to provide the board with further reassurances that everything is under control.

"We're not worried," IOC vice president Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. "We expect great games."

IOC President Jacques Rogge, who arrived Friday and settled into a Park Lane hotel, has dismissed concerns that the games are being overshadowed by a rocky buildup.

"I think the spirit of the games will wipe away all question marks and as soon as the games begin, as usual, will have a very positive atmosphere," he said in a conference call this week.

The leadup to the games has been dominated by the fallout from the failure of private security firm G4S to recruit enough guards to protect the venues, a blunder which forced the British government to call up 3,500 extra troops to cover the shortfall. Another 1,200 troops are on standby.

Rogge said the soldiers provided a sense of "tranquility" and would keep a low profile.

"They will not be running around with machine guns," he said.

Doping issues could figure as prominently as London's preparations in the IOC's discussions.

IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told the AP this week that he is investigating up to five suspicious results uncovered during retesting of about 100 samples from the 2004 Athens Games. The backup "B'' samples haven't yet been tested, and the athletes and sports that produced the adverse results haven't been disclosed.

If positive cases are confirmed, the IOC can retroactively disqualify athletes, nullify results and strip medals.

The IOC stores doping samples from each Olympics for eight years to allow for retesting. The statute of limitations for Athens will expire Aug. 29, the date the games closed in 2004.

The IOC also retested samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics a year after the games. Five athletes were caught for use of CERA, an advanced version of the blood-boosting drug EPO. Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain was retroactively stripped of his gold medal in the 1,500 meters.

The Athens Games produced an Olympic record 26 doping cases. Six medalists, including two gold winners, were caught in the Greek capital.

Another Athens gold medalist, U.S. cyclist Tyler Hamilton, remains under IOC investigation and could lose his medal.

Hamilton, who won the time-trial in 2004, admitted last year to doping. The IOC has sought documents from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency before proceeding to strip him of the medal and readjust the results.

The Russian Olympic Committee is pressing for retired Russian rider Viatcheslav Ekimov, who finished second behind Hamilton in Athens, to be upgraded from silver to gold. American Bobby Julich finished third in Athens, with Michael Rogers of Australia fourth.

Ekimov already has two Olympic gold medals — the track team pursuit at the 1988 Seoul Games and the road time trial at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

After years of denials, Hamilton told CBS's "60 Minutes" last year that he had repeatedly used performance-enhancing drugs. USADA said at the time that Hamilton had turned over his gold medal to the doping agency, but the IOC has not received it and the result has not been officially overturned.

Hamilton previously came under investigation by the IOC during the Athens Games when he tested positive for a blood transfusion. The case was dropped after his "B'' sample was mistakenly frozen and couldn't be tested.

Hamilton tested positive a month later at the Spanish Vuelta. After serving a two-year suspension, he returned to cycling but tested positive again for a banned substance in 2009 and was banned for eight years.

Also still pending for the IOC are doping cases involving U.S. sprinters Crystal Cox and the late Antonio Pettigrew.

Cox admitted in 2010 to using anabolic steroids and accepted a four-year suspension and disqualification of her results from 2001 to 2004.

At stake now is the U.S. women's 4x400-meter relay gold medal from Athens.

Cox ran in the preliminaries for the American team led by Sanya Richards, who ran the final along with Dee Dee Trotter, Monique Henderson and Monique Hennegan. Under international rules, an entire relay team can be disqualified because of the doping of one member, even an alternate.

If the U.S. is stripped of the victory, Russia would move from silver to gold and Jamaica from bronze to silver.

Pettigrew, who died in 2010 from an overdose of sleeping pills, was a member of the U.S. men's 4x400 relay team that won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The IOC stripped the U.S. team of the medals in 2008 after Pettigrew's admission of doping but still not reassigned the medals.

Nigeria was second, followed by Jamaica and the Bahamas.

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